West Penn Allegheny Health Sys. Inc. v. Upmc, No. 09-4468

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtSMITH
Citation627 F.3d 85
PartiesWEST PENN ALLEGHENY HEALTH SYSTEM, INC., Appellant v. UPMC; Highmark, Inc.
Decision Date29 November 2010
Docket NumberNo. 09-4468
627 F.3d 85

WEST PENN ALLEGHENY HEALTH SYSTEM, INC., Appellant
v.
UPMC; Highmark, Inc.


No. 09-4468.

United States Court of Appeals,
Third Circuit.


Argued Sept. 15, 2010.
Filed: Nov. 29, 2010.

627 F.3d 91

Barak A. Bassman, James T. Giles, Barbara W. Mather (argued), Barbara T. Sicalides, Pepper Hamilton, Philadelphia, PA, Andrew K. Fletcher, Pepper Hamilton, Pittsburgh, PA, for Appellant.

Jonathan M. Jacobson (argued), Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, New York, NY, Nilam A. Sanghvi, Nancy Winkelman, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, Philadelphia, PA, Paul H. Titus, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, Pittsburgh, PA, for Appellee UPMC.

Daniel I. Booker (argued), Jeffrey J. Bresch, Donna M. Doblick, Paul G. Eastgate, Reed Smith, Pittsburgh, PA, for Appellee Highmark, Inc.

Before: SLOVITER, BARRY, and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

SMITH, Circuit Judge.

The plaintiff in this antitrust case is Pittsburgh's second-largest hospital system. It sued Pittsburgh's dominant hospital system and health insurer under the Sherman Act and state law. The plaintiff asserts that the defendants violated sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act by forming a conspiracy to protect one another from competition. The plaintiff says that pursuant to the conspiracy, the dominant hospital system used its power in the provider market to insulate the health insurer from competition, and in exchange the insurer used its power in the insurance market to strengthen the hospital system and to weaken the plaintiff. The plaintiff also asserts that the dominant hospital system violated section 2 of the Sherman Act by attempting to monopolize the Pittsburgh-area market for specialized hospital services. Finally, the plaintiff asserts state-law claims for unfair competition and tortious interference against the dominant hospital system. The District Court dismissed the Sherman Act claims and, having done so, declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims. Because we conclude that the District Court erred in dismissing the Sherman Act claims, we will reverse in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings.

I. Facts

The following facts are alleged in the plaintiff's complaint. The District Court decided this case on a motion to dismiss. We accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Revell v. Port Auth., 598 F.3d 128, 134 (3d Cir.2010).

A. Cast of Characters

This lawsuit involves three parties. The plaintiff West Penn Allegheny Health System, Inc. ("West Penn") is Pittsburgh's second-largest hospital system; it has a share of less than 23% of the market for hospital services in Allegheny County, which includes the City of Pittsburgh. The defendant University of Pittsburgh Medical Center ("UPMC") is Pittsburgh's dominant hospital system. It enjoys a 55% share of the Allegheny County market for hospital services, and its share of

627 F.3d 92
the market for tertiary and quaternary care services exceeds 50%.1 West Penn and UPMC are the two major competitors in the Allegheny County market for hospital services, and are the only competitors in the market for tertiary and quaternary care services. The defendant Highmark, Inc. is the dominant insurer in the Allegheny County market for health insurance.2 Highmark's market share has remained between 60% and 80% since 2000.

B. Pre-Conspiracy Conduct

In 2000, The Western Pennsylvania Healthcare System merged with several financially distressed medical providers, including Allegheny General Hospital, to form West Penn. Highmark funded the merger with a $125 million loan. Highmark's largesse did not spring from a sense of altruism but was intended to preserve competition in the market for hospital services. Had the financially distressed providers comprising West Penn failed, UPMC would have attained nearly unchecked dominance in the market. This would not have been good for Highmark: the more dominant UPMC becomes, the more leverage it gains to demand greater reimbursements from Highmark. (Reimbursements are the payments insurers give to providers to cover services rendered to the insurers' subscribers.)

After the merger, Highmark and West Penn continued to enjoy a good relationship, as Highmark recognized that preserving West Penn was in its interests. Thus, Highmark encouraged investors to purchase bonds from West Penn, touting its financial outlook and the quality of its medical services. And in early 2002, Highmark gave West Penn a $42 million grant to invest in its facilities.

In contrast to Highmark, UPMC has been hostile to West Penn since its inception. UPMC opposed the merger creating West Penn: it intervened in the merger proceedings, filed an unsuccessful lawsuit to prevent Highmark from funding the merger, and attempted (with some success) to dissuade investors from purchasing West Penn bonds. UPMC's hostility towards West Penn continued after the merger. Since West Penn's formation, UPMC executives have repeatedly said that they want to destroy West Penn, and they have taken action to further that goal on more than a few occasions. But more on that later. See Section I.E, infra.

Historically, UPMC has also had a bitter relationship with Highmark. For example, when UPMC demanded purportedly excessive reimbursement rates from Highmark, Highmark responded by forming Community Blue, a low-cost insurance plan. To participate in Community Blue, a hospital had to agree to accept reduced reimbursements, but would receive a higher volume of patients. West Penn participated in Community Blue, but UPMC did not, claiming that its reimbursement rates were too low. UPMC responded to Community Blue by forming its own health insurer, UPMC Health Plan. UPMC Health Plan has been Highmark's main

627 F.3d 93
competitor in the Allegheny County market for health insurance since its formation.

Moreover, Highmark and UPMC have faced off in litigation in the past. In a 2001 federal lawsuit, Highmark sued UPMC under the Lanham Act, asserting that UPMC had made false statements about Community Blue in an advertisement. The District Court agreed with Highmark and preliminarily enjoined dissemination of the advertisement; we affirmed on appeal. Highmark, Inc. v. UPMC Health Plan, Inc., 276 F.3d 160, 171-73 (3d Cir.2001). In another 2001 lawsuit, Highmark sought to enjoin UPMC's proposed acquisition of a children's hospital; Highmark claimed that the acquisition would violate the antitrust laws. The case ultimately settled, however, and UPMC acquired the hospital.

C. The Conspiracy Begins; the Dynamics Change

In 1998, UPMC offered a "truce" to Highmark. Under the terms of the truce, each entity would use its market power to protect the other from competition. Highmark initially rejected UPMC's offer, criticizing it as an illegal "attempt to form a 'super' monopoly for the provision of health care in Western Pennsylvania in which [UPMC], the leading provider of hospital services, and Highmark, the leading health insurer, would combine forces." JA 95.

The complaint alleges, however, that in the summer of 2002, over the course of several meetings, Highmark reconsidered and decided to accept UPMC's offer of a truce. The complaint alleges that UPMC agreed to use its power in the provider market to prevent Highmark competitors from gaining a foothold in the Allegheny County market for health insurance, and in exchange Highmark agreed to take steps to strengthen UPMC and to weaken West Penn. The complaint offers the following factual allegations in support of the conspiracy claim.

UPMC engaged in conduct that effectively insulated Highmark from competition. First, it refused to enter into competitive provider agreements with Highmark's rivals. This prevented the rivals from entering the Allegheny County health insurance market because, given UPMC's dominance, an insurer cannot succeed in the market without being able to offer a competitively-priced plan that includes UPMC as an in-network provider.3

Second, UPMC shrunk UPMC Health Plan (Highmark's main competitor in the insurance market). It cut the Health Plan's advertising budget and increased its premiums, which led to a sharp drop in enrollment. It also refused to sell the Health Plan to insurers interested in buying it, which might have revived it as a Highmark competitor. UPMC acknowledged that it decided to shrink the Health Plan as a result of negotiations with Highmark, in which Highmark had agreed to take Community Blue off the market.

Meanwhile, Highmark took action that enhanced UPMC's dominance. Most significantly, it paid UPMC supracompetitive reimbursement rates. To afford UPMC's reimbursements, Highmark had to increase its insurance premiums (which, according to West Penn, it was able to do without losing business because UPMC had insulated it from competition). Highmark, moreover, provided UPMC with

627 F.3d 94
$230 million to build a new facility for its children's hospital, $70 million of which was a grant and the remainder of which was a low-interest loan. In addition, Highmark vowed not to offer a health plan that did not include UPMC as an in-network provider. Thus, in 2004, Highmark eliminated its low-cost insurance plan, Community Blue, in which UPMC had declined to participate. With the elimination of a leading low-cost insurance plan, health insurance premiums in Allegheny County rose. Furthermore, in 2006, Highmark publicly supported UPMC's acquisition of Mercy Hospital, which, other than West Penn, was UPMC's only other competitor in the market for tertiary and quaternary care services. Finally, in 2006, Highmark leaked confidential financial information regarding West Penn to UPMC, "which in turn leaked a distorted version of the information to credit-rating agencies and to the business media in an attempt to destroy investor confidence in West Penn." JA 113.

In addition, Highmark essentially cut West Penn off from its financial support, thus hampering its...

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  • Macauley v. Estate of Nicholas, Civil Action No. 10–7057.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • March 25, 2014
    ...where the facts to support such a dismissal are apparent on the face of a complaint. W. Penn Allegheny Health Sys., Inc. v. UPMC, 627 F.3d 85, 105 n. 13 (3d Cir.2010) (“Although Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(c) suggests that a statute of limitations defense cannot be used in the context......
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    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • August 22, 2014
    ...when negotiating the prices it will pay for goods and services.’ ” [Doc. 33 at 11 (citing W. Penn Allegheny Health Sys., Inc. v. UPMC, 627 F.3d 85, 103 (3d Cir.2010) (noting plaintiff “would have little basis for challenging the reimbursement rates” of defendant private insurer) (additional......
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    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • March 13, 2018
    ...exists for documents that are ‘integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint.’ " W. Penn Allegheny Health Sys., Inc. v. UPMC, 627 F.3d 85, 97 n.6 (3d Cir. 2010). See also Pension Ben. Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993) ("[t]o decide a moti......
  • United States ex rel. Bergman v. Abbot Labs., CIVIL ACTION NO. 09-4264
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • January 29, 2014
    ...claims require more factual explication than others to state a plausible claim for relief." W. Penn Allegheny Health Sys., Inc. v. UPMC, 627 F.3d 85, 98 (3d Cir. 2010) (cited in United States ex rel. Galmines v. Novartis Pharms. Corp., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 120672 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 23, 2013)) ......
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551 cases
  • Macauley v. Estate of Nicholas, Civil Action No. 10–7057.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • March 25, 2014
    ...where the facts to support such a dismissal are apparent on the face of a complaint. W. Penn Allegheny Health Sys., Inc. v. UPMC, 627 F.3d 85, 105 n. 13 (3d Cir.2010) (“Although Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(c) suggests that a statute of limitations defense cannot be used in the context......
  • N.M. Oncology & Hematology Consultants, Ltd. v. Presbyterian Healthcare Servs., Civ. No. 12–00526 MV/GBW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • August 22, 2014
    ...when negotiating the prices it will pay for goods and services.’ ” [Doc. 33 at 11 (citing W. Penn Allegheny Health Sys., Inc. v. UPMC, 627 F.3d 85, 103 (3d Cir.2010) (noting plaintiff “would have little basis for challenging the reimbursement rates” of defendant private insurer) (additional......
  • City of Phila. v. Sessions, CIVIL ACTION NO. 17–3894
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • March 13, 2018
    ...exists for documents that are ‘integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint.’ " W. Penn Allegheny Health Sys., Inc. v. UPMC, 627 F.3d 85, 97 n.6 (3d Cir. 2010). See also Pension Ben. Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993) ("[t]o decide a moti......
  • United States ex rel. Bergman v. Abbot Labs., CIVIL ACTION NO. 09-4264
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • January 29, 2014
    ...claims require more factual explication than others to state a plausible claim for relief." W. Penn Allegheny Health Sys., Inc. v. UPMC, 627 F.3d 85, 98 (3d Cir. 2010) (cited in United States ex rel. Galmines v. Novartis Pharms. Corp., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 120672 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 23, 2013)) ......
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2 firm's commentaries
2 books & journal articles
  • Controlling Unjustified, Anticompetitive State and Local Regulation: Where is Attorney General “Waldo”?
    • United States
    • Antitrust Bulletin Nbr. 56-4, December 2011
    • December 1, 2011
    ...available at http://www.ftc.gov/os/adjpro/d9305/040706commissionopinion.pdf. 68 See, e.g., West Penn Allegheny Health Sys., Inc. v. UPMC, 627 F.3d 85 (3rd Cir. 2011) (dominant health care provider expanded facilities to See Thomas Greaney, Competition Policy and Organizational Fragmenta- ti......
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    • Antitrust Bulletin Nbr. 60-4, December 2015
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    ...competition rather than encourage it, contrary to the policy of the Sherman Act.’’).105. West Penn Allegheny Health Sys., Inc. v. UPMC, 627 F.3d 85, 103 (3d Cir. 2010).106. Zoslaw, 693 F.2d at 885.107. AAA Liquors, 705 F.2d at 2107 n.-5.372 The Antitrust Bulletin enforcement, since large bu......

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